Subject: [Children's Writing Update] How to Write a Perfect Query Letter



The Children's Writing Update





edited by Jon Bard


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1.    New York Times Bestselling Author Maggie Stiefvater on How She Connects With Readers



When Laura spoke with author Maggie Stiefvater last year, the buzz surrounding her book Shiver was only just beginning.  Since then, the buzz has become a roar, with Shiver spending 40 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and garnering a boatload of honors from the likes of Publisher's Weekly,  Amazon, USA Today and many others.  In addition,  the film rights to Shiver have been optioned by Warner Brothers.

If anyone tells you that you can't make it as a children's writer anymore, Maggie would beg to differ. She's living proof that talent and hard work are still being rewarded.

Our podcast interview with Maggie has been one of the most popular items  on The CBI Clubhouse.  Fightin' Bookworms really warmed to Maggie's story and found her advice about writing for older children, -- and promoting oneself, --to be invaluable. 

So, as aspecial gift to Updaters, we've decided to unlock Maggies full MP3 interview -- and  a downloadable transcript of the entire talk -- so that non-members can enjoy it.

If you ever wanted to get inside the mind of an author on the brink of major stardom, here's your chance.  This is great info, direct from one of the hottest young authors in publishing today.  And it's on us.




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2.  Master the Art of  Pacing...By Learning From the Pros!


OK, I've got a cool little exercise for you. It's a simple and very powerful way to discover the secret of great pacing:

Read through some published books similar to what you’re writing in age group and genre. If you’re writing a funny talking animal picture book, read those. If you’re writing a middle grade mystery, check out some mysteries. Choose books that have been published in the last 15 years.

As you’re reading, jot down how the author kept the pages turning:

* Note the page number where each scene changed, and whether the tension went up or down with the next scene.

* Count how many lines of dialogue appeared in each conversation.

* Notice where chapters broke, or how the action shifted when pages were turned in a picture book.

Pacing is hard to describe, but it's easy to see in action.   After reading a handful of good books using this approach, you'll suddenly find it much easier to keep your own story zipping along.  Try it -- it really works!


3. Hurry! Laura's Made a Few Critique Slots Available...

Our own Laura Backes -- regarded as one of the best children's book "doctors" on the planet -- is making a limited number of written picture book critique slots available. These are in-depth explorations of your manuscript culminating in a detailed, written point-by-point critique. Whenever we mention availability of these slots, they invariably fill up in a matter of days, so do not delay if this is what you need. For details, visit

For the uninitiated, Laura is the founder and publisher of Children's Book Insider, the author of Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read (Random House), co-founder of the Children's Authors Bootcamp workshops, author of multiple features for Writer's Digest and The Writer, technical editor of Writing Children's Books for Dummies and on and on. Folks have traveled long distances for a chance to consult with her, and she's always delivered. Her critique service allows you to tap Laura's expertise from anywhere in the world.

Once again, for details about written critiques,  And do hurry, Laura's critique slots are extremely limited and almost always fill up within a couple of days.

"Laura, you have opened up my mind to so many things. I have never been so excited
to go back to my stories and write. This was the best money I ever spent for
anything anywhere anytime! I feel like I have a new life ahead of me and I
can't wait to make it all happen.
" Barbara Plotkin


4. Love Music? Love Movies? Take This Quick Survey



Some of you know that I'm the co-founder of the - The Social Network for Veteran Rockers.   We've been having a discussion about the greatest rock and roll movie of all time, and I decided it was time to answer the question once and for all.

So, we've set up a public survey to settle the issue.  If you're a music and movie buff, please take a second to pick your favorites. And feel free to pass this link on via blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. so others can weigh in!


PS:  Right now, This is Spinal Tap leads the way, with Hard Day's Night, Rock and Roll High School and Almost Famous closing in......






5.  Come Hang With the Fightin' Bookworms!  



The CBI Clubhouse Fightin' Bookworms


The CBI Clubhouse is rocking!  We've got lots of new members who are meeting one another on the message boards, plenty of new videos and audios, our free children's writing course (The CBI Challenge), exclusive publishing opportunities just for our members and much more.  

And all of it is free for paid subscribers to Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers!

Here's what Fightin' Bookworm Irene Roth has to say:

Before I joined the CBI Clubhouse, I was completely lost as a freelance writer. I knew that I wanted to write for kids, but I didn't have the first idea about what I should do to achieve this.

I sent out a few articles to magazines, and they all got rejected. This went on for two years. I was devastated and ready to give up! Then I was talking to a friend of mine who suggested that I check out the CBI Clubhouse.  I did. And I have never felt better in my whole life as a freelance writer.

There are weekly instructional videos by Jon Bard on different aspects of the writing process. These are invaluable. There are also videos by Laura Backes.  She has become my personal mentor. I listen to her videos every few days. Some videos I listen to over and over again.

Then there is the CBI Challenge. It is absolutely chock full of information on finding your passion in writing to the nuts and bolts of publishing. I am on Module #2 and I have learned more than I could have ever imagined.

Lastly, if you have any questions or concerns, you can email either Jon or Laura at any time. They are also willing to help and are encouraging. Finally, I don't feel so alone as a writer!

So what are you waiting for?  Join the CBI Clubhouse for a small, small fee every month. Skip one latte and you have your monthly membership which will give you a lot more value that your latte.

Join The CBI Clubhouse now (for less than the cost of a latte each month) and you'll get:

  • a fresh issue of Children's Book Insider, The Newsletter for Children's Writers
  • audio interviews with top authors
  • video tutorials about every aspect of writing and submitting children's books to publishers
  • a slew of exclusive articles
  • free ebooks
  • message boards and chatrooms 
  • The CBI Challenge -- our exclusive step-by-step children's writing course!

...and much, much more!

If you're at all serious about writing children's books and getting them published, you really need to hop on board with the Fightin' Bookworms of The CBI Clubhouse.  All the education and inspiration you need to make it is waiting for you for just pennies a day.  Plus, we have lots of fun while we're at it.

Here's the link to the Clubhouse!


See you 'round the Clubhouse, future Fightin' Bookworm!




6.  Workshop: How to Create a Children's Photo-Picture Book



Here's something interesting for would-be ebook, print on demand and self publishers who lack the artistic abilities to illustrate their own book.

Learn how to create a publishable picture book using a digital camera and photo editing software at a four day retreat  conducted by photojournalist Dr. Peter J. Shields.

By the end of the retreat, Dr. Shield promises you'll have your own full-color photo book completed and ready to send to a printer or publisher.

Details at


7. What's in September's Children's Book Insider?


Children's Book Insider

If you're new to the Update, you may not know that we publish a monthly subscription-only newsletter for aspiring and working children's book writers that's jam-packed with market leads, advice, inside info and much more.

It's called Children's Book Insider, and we've been sharing it with subscribers across the globe since May, 1990! (And remember, every subscriber to Children's Book Insider gets total access to the incredible CBI Clubhouse website AND The CBI Challenge step-by-step children's writing course!)


Here's a look at what's in the current issue of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers:

Market Tips:

► Major Prize for First Young Adult Novel
► Two Agents Accepting Older Fiction Submissions
► Resource Publisher Seeks Books for Educators and Counselors
► Middle Grade Magazine Accepting Submissions
► Publisher Seeks Books with Southern Slant or Unique Hook

In-depth Articles:

► Eight Things Picture Book Editors *Don't* Want to See
► Introducing the Fightin' Bookworm Mindset
► The CBI Challenge - Let's Get Ready to SubmitYour Manuscript!
► Publicize Yourself By Being a Journalist
► How To Pick the Perfect Character Name

If you enjoy the information offered in this e-mail update, wait 'til you see what we've got in store for you each month in the pages of CBI! 

A subscription to CBI and full access to the CBI Clubhouse and CBI Challenge costs about the same each month as a latte! 



For more information and to order, go to

"If you are "thinking" about subscribing, DON'T!!! Just do it. I waited for almost 2 years before I did, now I'm wondering why I waited so long"  Frederick Claus 

"I won a subscription to CBI at a conference few years ago. I've been renewing ever since -- 450 magazine and 4 book credits later! Thanks for the best information published. I rely on your newsletter!" Lorri Cardwell-Casey

"I knew if I was going to keep getting published I'd need some help so I did some research and discovered your newsletter. It seemed made to order so I ordered it! Five books and over thirty-five articles later, I'm still subscribing and finding Children's Book Insider as useful and inspiring as ever. " Lynne Stover

If you're not sure whether joining CBI is the right move, consider this: I got a book contract from a lead on the first page of my very first issue of CBI! How's that for results? Marci Mathers


8How to Write the Perfect Query Letter   


by Laura Backes, Publisher of Children's Book Insider


In an ideal world, you'd be able to pitch your manuscript to an editor over a leisurely cup of coffee. But we're forced to inhabit the real world, where you've got about 10 seconds to hook an editor before she decides to continue reading or reach for her form rejection slip. And more and more, this "hook" must come in the form of a query letter.

A query is a business letter asking permission to send the project described. It is either sent without an accompanying manuscript, or with two or three sample chapters (the publisher's guidelines will state which form the query should take). If the query letter stands alone, it's your only chance to sell the editor on your book. Many authors hate the task of writing a query, but it's a necessity in today's publishing industry. Editors, overwhelmed by the sheer number of submissions they receive, need a quick way to weed out the good from the not-so-good. A well-crafted query has a better chance of leading to a well-crafted manuscript.

The first rule of query writing is that the letter must fit on one page. That's one side of one page (no cheating and printing a double-sided letter). Type it single spaced, but leave sufficient white space at the top and bottom so the letter looks uncluttered and appealing. Why such length limitations? If you can't sum up your book in less than a page, you haven't sufficiently clarified your idea.

Your first paragraph (two paragraphs if you've written a longer novel) conveys to the editor what your book is about. Think of this as the copy that would go on the jacket flap. You don't want to give away all the surprises, but you do want to entice the reader to buy the book. For fiction, establish your main character in a sentence or two, present the character's primary problem or conflict, mention one or two things the character plans to do to resolve the problem, and bring up some of the obstacles that will stand in his way. Hit the high points upon which the action is based. The synopsis should also reflect the tone of the book-humorous, scary, action-packed, somber, etc.

Don't discuss the theme, or the underlying message of the book. This should be obvious to the editor through the plot.

In nonfiction queries to children's book publishers, begin by stating an interesting fact about your topic that helps establish a market for your book (Did you know Jello, in its many shapes and forms, is eaten by 3 million people a day?) Follow this by describing what your book is about and your particular slant on the topic. In a few sentences explain your approach and how it's appropriate for the intended age group, the questions you'll raise and answer, and any additional materials your book would have (photographs, maps, activities, etc.) You can add a paragraph explaining your research and any unusual information you've uncovered. List good firsthand sources available to you or new data that hasn't ever appeared in a children's book.

After your synopsis, list the book's title, word count, age group and genre (historical fiction, humorous mystery, science activity book, etc.)  Explain why you've chosen to submit to this publisher (show that you've done your market research and describe in one sentence why your book would fit in with this publisher's list). For nonfiction, also state how your book would be different from other books on the market on the same topic.

Your next paragraph is about you. Give any information pertinent to writing children's books (previous publishing credits, memberships in writing organizations, writing classes you've taken, professional experience with children of the age group for which you want to write). Nonfiction credentials may include extensive experience with or study of the topic. If you don't have any relevant information, skip this paragraph. Editors know that everyone has to start somewhere.

Finally, ask the editor if you may send the entire manuscript, and thank her for her time. Attach sample chapters if indicated in the publisher's guidelines (nonfiction publishers may also request a chapter-by-chapter outline). Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the editor's reply. If you're sending a letter only, the SASE can be a business size envelope. If you're including sample chapters, your SASE should be large enough to return the entire packet.

Always address the letter and envelope to a specific editor whenever possible. Use good stationery with your name, address, phone number and email printed at the top. Send by regular mail-brightly-colored envelopes, trinkets or treats included in the package, or Fed-Ex delivery won't increase your chances.

Then, drop your query in the mail and start on your next manuscript!

For much more on the art of the query, including actual examples of query letters that scored publishing contracts,  check out Author to Editor, Query Letter Secrets of the Pros. (

Want more great information just like this? Check out Children's Book Insider, The Newsletter for Children's Writers. Visit now for more info and a special offer.




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Copyright 2010, Children's Book Insider, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole, or in part, without the express written consent of the author. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This information is provided with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or any other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a competent professional should be sought. Therefore, the Author and Publisher expressly disclaim any liability for the use of any information contained herein, and this publication is provided with this understanding and none other.

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September 23, 2010

Children's Writing

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Have you written a story but don't know what to do next? I've Written a Story, What Do I Do Now? tells you what you need to know about submitting your manuscript to publishers efficiently and professionally.

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